Agnès Varda Tribute: American Cinematheque in Santa Monica

Agnes Varda in The Beaches of Agnes

Except for Vagabond, a 1985 drama that earned Sandrine Bonnaire best actress awards from both the French Academy and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, I'm unfamiliar with Agnès Varda's oeuvre, which encompasses more than 40 films – both shorts and features, narrative and documentaries – spanning 54 years (1954-2008). Well, I'll now have the chance to rectify that glaring omission in my cinematic connoisseurship – on the big screen – and so will other Los Angeles area denizens.

One of the most respected filmmakers in the world, the iconoclastic Agnès Varda will be the subject of a mini-retrospective at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica from June 24-July 1. Varda, whose films frequently focus on women and their issues, will be present throughout the series to talk about her work.

Among the screening films are:

  • Jacquot de Nantes (1991), the celebrated semi-documentary about Varda's late husband, Jacques Demy, the director of classics such as Lola and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
  • Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962), the French Nouvelle Vague classic that shows two hours in the life of a pop singer (Corrine Marchand).
  • Vagabond (1985), which follows the last months in the life of a drifter, played by Sandrine Bonnaire.
  • Murs Murs (1980), described as a tribute to the outdoor murals found throughout the Los Angeles area.
  • Lions Love (and Lies) (1969), set in late 1960s Los Angeles, and featuring Andy Warhol's diva Viva and Hair authors James Rado and Jerome Ragni.

The American Cinematheque will also offer a sneak preview of Varda's latest, The Beaches of Agnès (top photo), a highly praised autobiographical work that won this year's César for best documentary.

The Aero Theatre is located at 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. For more information, call 323.466.FILM or visit


Schedule and film information from the American Cinematheque's press release:

Wednesday, June 24 - 7:30 PM

JACQUOT DE NANTES, 1991, Ciné-Tamaris, 118 min. Director Agnès Varda's tender farewell to her late husband, Jacques Demy, JACQUOT re-creates the early years of Demy's life in the port city of Nantes, delicately interwoven with clips from LOLA, THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and his other films. Interspersed throughout the film are intimate close-ups of Demy's fragile body, tenderly filmed by Varda in one of her most personal and affecting films. With Philippe Maron, Edouard Joubeaud, Laurent Monnier. “Has there been anything quite like JACQUOT DE NANTES?…It deserves to be called a CINEMA PARADISO without self-indulgence, or a 400 BLOWS without self-pity.” - Film Comment.

Plus short: “Uncle Yanco", (1967, Ciné-Tamaris,, 22 min.) While in San Francisco for the promotion of her last film in October 1967, Agnès Varda, tipped by her friend Tom Luddy, gets to know a relative she had never heard of before, Jean Varda, nicknamed Yanco. This hitherto unknown uncle lives on a boat in Sausalito, is a painter, has adopted a hippie lifestyle and loves life. The meeting is a very happy one. Discussion following with director Agnes Varda, moderated by film critic Kevin Thomas.


The Gleaners & I by Agnes VardaThursday, June 25 - 7:30 PM

Agnès Varda's Masterpiece Documentaries:
THE GLEANERS & I (LES GLANEURS ET LA GLANEUSE), 2001, Zeitgeist, 82 min. Once again Agnes Varda uses the documentary format as a jumping-off point for an expressionistic diary in which her own life intercedes. A marvelous “wandering road documentary” that focuses on the centuries-old tradition of “gleaning” in France – literally picking up the castoffs of others. Varda follows rural scavengers who gather leftover vegetables after the harvest, and urban scavengers who collect discarded food and appliances from the streets of Paris. Interwoven with these are Varda's own intimate thoughts on aging, humorous interviews with judges and attorneys who debate, Monty Python-style, the legality of gleaning while standing in potato fields, and a host of other spontaneous musings on French art and culture. Through it all, Varda's patient sense of social obligation shines through, as she asks again and again, “How can one live on the leftovers of others?” “I managed to approach [the gleaners], to bring them out of their anonymity. I discovered their generosity. There are many ways of being poor, having common sense, anger or humor.” – Agnès Varda.

THE GLEANERS & I: TWO YEARS LATER, 2002, Zeitgeist, 60 min. Varda's exuberantly inventive follow-up to her critically lauded essay film, in which she revisits characters from the original and further explores what it means to be a gleaner. Discussion in between films with director Agnès Varda and members of Fallen Fruit, a Los Angeles based organization inspired by THE GLEANERS.

Friday, June 26 - 7:30 PM

Los Angeles-Inspired:
LIONS LOVE (AND LIES), 1969, Ciné-Tamaris, 110 min. A blissed-out experiment in anarchy and illusion, featuring Warhol superstar Viva (from LONESOME COWBOYS) and “Hair” authors James Rado and Jerome Ragni playing “themselves” – three innocents adrift in Hollywood. Freely mixing improvisation with scripted dialogue, and occasional news reports on the shootings of Robert Kennedy and Warhol, which interrupt the film, LIONS LOVE is Agnes Varda's gloriously screwy time capsule of L.A. in its free-love acid-tripping let-it-all-hang-out heyday. In English.

MURS MURS, 1980, Ciné-Tamaris, 81 min. Essential viewing for all Angelenos, MURS MURS is Varda's lively tribute to this city's outdoor murals, from the riotous Pig Paradise in Vernon to The Fall of Icarus in Venice. Along the way, she captures priceless interviews with the muralists themselves, including 23-year old Judy Baca, who observes, “I started painting because I realized… that I had never seen a Chicana in a museum.” In English. Discussion in between films with director Agnès Varda.


Saturday, June 27 - 7:30 PM

Agnes Varda's Classics:

CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7 (CLEO DE 5 A 7), 1961, Ciné-Tamaris, 90 min. Dir. Agnès Varda's international breakthrough film, CLEO ranks with BREATHLESS and THE 400 BLOWS as one of the seminal works of the French New Wave. Two hours in the life of a hopelessly pretty pop singer (Corrine Marchand), who may or may not be dying of cancer. Vain, childish and selfish at the start, Cléo's journey through Paris becomes a journey of self-discovery. “The streets of Paris are filmed like they have never again been filmed” - Telerama.

VAGABOND (SANS TOIT NI LOI), 1985, Ciné-Tamaris, 107 min. Agnes Varda's most acclaimed work since CLÉO and arguably the greatest French film of the 1980s, VAGABOND tells the brutal, simple, yet unrelenting story of the last months in the life of a young female drifter. Sandrine Bonnaire's harrowing performance in the lead role made her an overnight international star at the age of 18. (The French title of the film literally translates as “without roof or law.”) Shot in a semi-documentary style, the film opens abruptly on the body of Mona, frozen to death in a ditch on the side of the road. Interspersed with flashbacks of Mona's life as a drifter are reminiscences by the people she met along the way. In spite of Varda's attention, Mona ultimately remains unknowable, even to herself. She is a cipher, misunderstood by those she has encountered even as they recall their impressions and interactions with her for the camera. Discussion in between films with director Agnès Varda.


Agnes Varda in The Beaches of Agnes

Wednesday, July 1 - 7:30PM

Sneak Preview! THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS (LES PLAGES D' AGNÈS), 2008, 110 min. “If you opened people up, you would find landscapes,” Varda says in the opening voiceover of her new film. “If you opened me up, you would find beaches.” Varda's latest work is an autobiographical essay that takes a nostalgic yet penetrating look back at her life and films. Using photographs, recreations and scenes from her films, Varda illustrates the various stages of her life, from her marriage to Jacques Demy and his death in 1990 to her childhood memories of Sète, the fishing village that would become the subject of her first film. Woven through these reminiscences are lonely, dreamlike sequences shot on the beaches that have influenced and inspired her.

Plus US Premiere! “Gwen From Brittany,” a short portrait of the encounters over the last decade of Agnès Varda and Gwen Deglise, programmer at the American Cinematheque, shot at the Aero and Egyptian Theatres while Varda was in Los Angeles shooting THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS. Discussion in between films with director Agnès Varda.

Agnès Varda Tribute: American Cinematheque in Santa Monica © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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1 Comment to Agnès Varda Tribute: American Cinematheque in Santa Monica

  1. Robin

    Varda's GLEANERS AND I screening will be introduced by the Los Angeles artists collective known as Fallen Fruit. They were inspired by Varda's GLEANERS films to engage in projects that focused on utilizing backyard or “fallen fruit” that wasn't being eaten. Varda's film THE GLEANERS (and her follow up) profiles people feeding themselves from imperfect food cast off by farmers and markets and extends to her admission of “gleaning” images as a filmmaker.